The struggle


global warming.

The news gets worse and worse, but what can we do?

Everyone likes their cars and that includes me. Although I donít drive a lot, when I ask myself if I would be willing to give up a car for the sake of the planetís future, the answer is not one I would like to broadcast.

But what can we do?

I had an idea years and years ago which I have sent around to a number of media outlets but have never got a response. One of the possibilities is that there is something fundamentally wrong with the concept and it is therefore not a good idea. But the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that this idea has possibilities.

To begin.

Take a Ford Focus and ask yourself what kind of electrical engine would be needed to give such a car the same performance it has with a petrol or diesel engine? How small is it possible to make such an engine?

Having established this part of the problem the next question to ask is: what kind of dynamo or generator would be needed to produce enough electrical power to run this engine? More importantly perhaps, what is the smallest dynamo possible?

Having got this far, the question now concerns the engine which drives the dynamo to produce the necessary electricity. How small is it possible to make this engine? Bearing in mind that it will be a steady state engine and doesn't need to be in the least bit flexible, it must be possible to make this engine both very small and extremely economical.

So the idea is that one engine dives the dynamo which produces the electricity which powers the car. A person will simply get into their car, switch on the engine which runs the dynamo and drive the car to wherever they wish. But, with the best that modern technology can supply, how many hours of drive time could that person expect to get from a single gallon of petrol? (With this idea we would no longer be talking about miles per gallon, we would instead be talking about hours of motoring per gallon.)

In the late nineties I saw a documentary about a European country which had electric vehicles people could rent from a stand. The battery was fully charged but if it ran out a 250cc engine would kick in to supply enough (electrical) power to enable the renter to keep driving. But why couldn't the engine have been smaller and more economical than a 250cc engine? Would a 50cc engine have done the job? Anyway, at only 250cc, why bother with a heavy battery in the first place?

The trouble with car engines is that they need to be flexible in order to cope with all the varying demands made upon them. It is this need for flexibility which seriously reduces their ability to be economical. But a steady state engine which drives a dynamo doesnít need to be in the least bit flexible and, depending on the size of the dynamo needed, it could be tuned to run virtually on the smell of an oily rag. That would mean that for a gallon of petrol a person should be able to get several hours of normal motoring and thus definitively reduce their yearly consumption of petrol. The more cars on the road using this system, assuming it could be made to work, the less oil our nation would use in a year and the less damage we would do the our environment.

But can such an idea be made to work?

---November 7, 2013---

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